The princes were eager for a fight. They stood vigilantly by Viśvāmitra’s side as he sat silently meditating upon the sacrificial hymns. Rāma leaned on his great bow, which stood almost as tall as Him. Lakṣman held in His hand a shining blue sword, its golden handle impressed with bright gems.
As the sixth night approached and the final rituals were being performed, the sacrificial fire suddenly blazed forth furiously. A loud clamor came from the sky, which was covered over by clouds. Swooping down upon that sacrifice, the two Rākṣasa demons Maricha and Subahu, appeared from the sky. They were accompanied by their fierce and terrible looking followers. As they spread their sorcery, torrents of blood and pus, as well as large pieces of flesh, fell upon the altar. Blazing fires sprang from the earth and hot coals flew everywhere.
Shrieking horribly, the Rākṣasas danced about, wreaking havoc. The hermits fell back, but this time they were not fearful. Viśvāmitra quickly stood up. It was time for these evil beings to receive their just deserts. They had defiled his sacrifice once too often. They would not do so again. Gathering the other ascetics, Viśvāmitra moved aside and ordered Rāma to attack the Rākṣasas.
Rāma became infuriated upon seeing the scene of devastation. He rushed forward toward the Rākṣasas, calling to His brother, “Watch now as I scatter these wicked demons who feed on raw flesh.”
Even as he spoke, Rāma continuously worked His bow. He sent swift arrows in all directions. The Rākṣasas were stunned; they had not expected any resistance. Some of them closed quickly on Rāma, covering Him on all sides. Rāma released arrows with deadly accuracy and speed. The Rākṣasas were cut to pieces. Rāma looked for Maricha. Seeing his huge form nearby, tearing at the sacrificial altar, Rāma invoked a celestial weapon. He placed it on His bow and, although still feeling furious, he calmly said to Lakṣman. “I shall release the Manava weapon, presided over by the father of the gods, Manu.”
Rāma angrily fired His weapon at the fearsome, roaring Maricha. The demon was struck by the mighty missile and he was lifted and flung a distance of eight hundred miles, landing in the ocean. Although reeling and struck senseless by Rāma’s arrow, Maricha was not killed. Rāma looked at Lakṣman. “See the force of that weapon, My brother. It easily hurled the demon to a vast distance.”
Rāma and Lakṣman continuously discharged flaming arrows at the other Rākṣasas. Imbued with mystic power one arrow expanded into thousands. It appeared as if a continuous line of shafts was leaving Rāma’s bow, so fast was His movement. The Rākṣasas screamed in pain. Some of them vanished and others fell dead on the ground. Some entered the earth while others flew into the sky.
Regrouping, a large number of the demons rushed down from the sky towards the princes. They hurled lances, iron maces, massive rocks and blazing coals. Rāma and Lakṣman stood firm, parrying that shower of weapons with Their arrows. Tightly grasping His golden bow, Rāma said to His brother, “Fear not Lakṣman, for I shall now swiftly deal with these blood-sucking demons. They are wicked and merciless and always given to sinful acts. This indeed shall be the last sacrifice they defile.”
Having said this to His brother, Rāma moved with agility, evading the rocks thrown by the demons. He invoked the weapon presided over by the god of fire, Agni. Fired from Rāma’s fully extended bow, the weapon hit the Rākṣasa Subahu full upon the chest. His heart torn apart, he fell dead on the ground like an uprooted tree. Rāma then invoked the Vāyu-astra, the powerful wind weapon. He fired it and a roaring gale went towards the Rākṣasas. They were blown away like so many pieces of dust and debris. Those who were not killed by that weapon fled for their lives.
Kali is first described in the Devi-Mahatmya, written around 600CE, where she is said to have emanated from the brow of the goddess Durga (slayer of demons) during one of the battles between the divine and anti-divine forces. In this context, Kali is considered the ‘forceful’ form of the great goddess Durga. Other goddesses who are less associated with warfare, such as Parvati, Sita and Sati, are also said to emanate Kali, or even become her, to defeat enemies. These enemies are sometimes only susceptible to female assault, making the intervention of the male consort impossible. In some cases, the Kali produced is even able to destroy a far greater enemy than her consort, as when Sita becomes Kali to defeat a thousand-headed Ravana. As her consort Rama is usually the warrior, but in this case freezes in fear, some take this to be a sign of the great potential power of women, when their Shakti is not controlled by and gifted to a male consort.
Another account of the origins of Kali is found in the Matsya Purana, which states that she originated as a mountain tribal goddess in the north-central part of India, in the region of Mount Kalanjara (now known as Kalinjar). However this account is disputed because of the relatively newly written nature of the Matsya Purana. The Vedas (which were written much before the Puranas) associate the name Kali with the most horrifying, black tongue of the seven flickering tongues of Agni, the Hindu god of fire.
Kali has become massively linked with Shiva in the later traditions. The unleashed form of Kali often becomes wild and uncontrollable, and only Shiva is able to tame her. This is both because she is often a transformed version of one of his consorts and because he is able to match her wildness. His methods vary from challenging her to the wild tandava dance and outdoing her, to appearing as a crying infant and appealing to her maternal instincts. While Shiva is said to be able to tame her, the iconography often presents her dancing on his fallen body, and there are accounts of the two of them dancing together, and driving each other to such wildness that the world comes close to unravelling.
Shiva’s involvement with Tantra and Kali’s dark nature have led to her becoming an important Tantric figure. To the Tantric worshippers, it was essential to face her Curse, the terror of death, as willingly as they accepted Blessings from her beautiful, nurturing, maternal aspect. For them, wisdom meant learning that no coin has only one side: as death cannot exist without life, so life cannot exist without death. Kali’s role sometimes increased beyond a chaos who could be confronted to bring wisdom, and she is given great metaphysical significance by some Tantric texts. The Nirvana-tantra clearly presents her uncontrolled nature as the Ultimate Reality, claiming that the trimurti of Brahma, Visnu and Siva arise and disappear from her like bubbles from the sea. Although this is an extreme case, the Yogini-tantra, Kamakhya-tantra and the Niruttara-tantra declare her the svarupa (own-being) of the Mahadevi (the great Goddess, who is in this case seen as the combination of all devis).
The final stage of development is the worshipping of Kali as the Great Mother, devoid of her usual violence or foulness. This tradition is a break from the more traditional depictions, and as a popular movement with little philosophical or literary backing it can easily be overlooked. The pioneers of this tradition are the Shakta poets such as Ramprasad (1718? - 1775?), who show an awareness of Kali’s ambivalent nature. Rachel McDermott’s work, however, suggests that for the common worshipper, Kali is not seen as fearful, and only those educated in old traditions see her as having a wrathful component.
In most early representations, skulls, cemeteries, and blood are associated with her worship. She is black, naked and emaciated. Her face is azure, streaked with yellow, her glance is ferocious; her disheveled and bristly hair is usually shown splayed and spread like the tail of a peacock and sometimes braided with green serpents. She wears a long necklace (descending almost to her knees) of human skulls or intestines. She may be shown wearing a girdle of severed arms. Children’s corpses as earrings (likeliest representing natural infant mortality and childhood mortality from causes such as disease), and cobras as bracelets or garlands add to her terrifying adornments. Her purple lips are often shown streaming with blood; her tusk-like teeth descend over her lower lip; and her tongue lolls out. She is often shown standing on the inert form of her consort, Shiva. When portrayed in sexual union with him, she straddles his prone body, showing her domination and breaking from traditional gender roles. She is sometimes accompanied by she-demons. In certain representations, her four arms hold weapons or the severed head of a demon, while also making the ‘peace’ and ‘boon-giving’ gestures: these symbolize both her creative and her destructive power, for in some traditions Kali personifies the ambivalence of deity, which manifests itself, according to much of Indian tradition, in the unceasing cycle of life and death, creation and destruction.
To commemorate the birth of Srimati Radharani, the inseparable consort and internal potency of Krishna, I am giving away a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a source of wisdom and enlightenment revered through the ages.
The Bhagavad Gita is the crest jewel from within the epic Mahabharata, in the form of a conversation held 5,000 years ago between Krishna and Arjuna as they wait on the brink of the Battle of Kurukshetra. Arjuna, a mighty warrior, faces the trepidation of fighting his own kin. He turns to his chariot driver, Krishna, who advises him in matters of duty, honor, philosophy, existence, and reveals himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. With this transcendental knowledge, Arjuna accepts his duty as prince and warrior, and the battle ensues. The verses of the Gita are a guide to life, self realization, and total immersion in spiritual awareness.
Along with this excellent text, I am including the booklet Kṛṣṇa: The Reservoir of Pleasure, and a CD with 14 tracks of classic devotional songs, recorded in the ’70s.
A few guidelines:
-Reblogging this post counts as one entry. Liking this post counts as one entry. (if you are a devotee or other interested party who would like to reblog this but do not need a copy of the Gita for yourself, send me a message to let me know you are not entering)
-I will ship worldwide.
- I will select one person at random on Radhastami, September 22, 2012 (the first day of Autumn!).
-I will contact the winner via their ask box, and if I cannot get in touch with them within three days, I will pick another random winner.
Thank you for participating! I have many more books which I can use for future giveaways if this one is a success, which may include extras such as incense, art, and other spiritual items. Hare Krishna!